CAIRO/PARIS: The World Health Organisation said on Thursday the Delta variant has led to a “surge” in coronavirus outbreaks triggering a “fourth wave” in the Middle East, where vaccination rates remain low.
The global health body said the highly transmissible strain, first detected in India, has been recorded in 15 out of the 22 countries and territories of the region under its purview, stretching from Morocco to Pakistan.
“The circulation of the Delta variant is fuelling the surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in an increasing number of countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region,” it said in a statement.
“Most of the new cases and hospitalised patients are unvaccinated people. We are now in the fourth wave of Covid-19 across the region,” said Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region.
As of the last week of July, “only 41 million people, or 5.5 percent, of the region’s population, had been fully vaccinated,” the WHO said.
Infections have increased by 55 percent, and deaths by 15 percent, in the last month compared to the month before. More than 310,000 case and 3,500 deaths have been recorded weekly.
Countries such as Tunisia, which has suffered the biggest number of Covid-19 deaths in North Africa, have been struggling to contain the outbreak.
Critical shortages of oxygen tanks and intensive care beds have stretched the capacities of healthcare systems regionally.
WHO noted the rapid spread of the Delta variant was quickly making it “the dominant strain” in the region.
According to a recent paper in the journal Virological, the amount of virus found in the first tests of patients with the Delta variant was 1,000 times higher than patients in the first wave of the virus in 2020, greatly increasing its contagiousness.
4bn anti-Covid shots injected worldwide
Although more than four billion doses of anti-Covid vaccines have been administered around the world, poorer countries are still struggling to secure precious shots despite recent donations.
At least 4,014,302,550 doses had been injected into people’s arms by 1100 GMT on Thursday, according to a tally based on official sources.
Global injections have slowed slightly: the fourth billion dose was reached in 30 days, while it took 26 days to reach the previous one. The first and second billion were reached after about 140 and 40 days respectively.
Forty percent (1.6 billion) of the four billion shots have been administered in China. India (451 million) and the United States (343 million) make up the trio of countries that have administered the most jabs.
Emirates lead the race
In terms of population among countries with more than one million people, the United Arab Emirates is the leader: 168 first and second doses administered per 100 inhabitants. Uruguay follows (137), then Bahrain (134).
The UAE is close to having 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated while Uruguay and Bahrain have both reached more than 60 percent.
After this the leading countries are Qatar, Chile and Canada (129 shots per 100 inhabitants), Israel (128), Singapore (125), the United Kingdom, Mongolia and Denmark (124) and Belgium (122).
These countries have fully vaccinated more than half their populations.
Not far off are China (111), the United States (104) and the European Union (103). The US and EU have fully vaccinated nearly half their population. China does not communicate this information.
Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2021